Damascus Countryside, SANA – Located in the heart of Yabroud city in the Qalamoun area of Damascus Countryside, the Saints Constantine and Helen Cathedral is one of the largest and most venerable churches of the area.
On the Cathedral’s history, historical scholar Father Metri Haji-Athanasiou says it was originally an Aramaic pagan temple dedicated to the sun god Baalshamin circa the first millennium BC, then the Romans altered it in 64 BC to give it a distinct Roman touch, and it was further renovated between 212-235 CE when its columns were replaced by large supports to bear the large arches that are over seven meters, adding that at that period it was a temple for Jupiter.
Haji-Athanasiou explains that the old temple was built using large stone blocks taken from the mountains surrounding Yabroud, with the base of the structure being stronger and more robust that the top, with signs that some walls had crumbled and where rebuild haphazardly using the remains and remains of other temples.
He noted that the altar was once used for sacrifices, with a stone canal for collecting the blood of sacrifices, and these rituals continued up until 326 CE when St. Helen passed through the city on her way back to Rome from Jerusalem, at which point the temple was converted into a church.
Leading into the church is a rectangular wooden entrance as wide as the church, with an ornate antique wooden door at the center leading to the church itself. Its carvings include an engraving of a communion chalice surrounded by wheat stalks and grapes, an engraving of the cross, the crown of thorns, a ladder, three nails, and the tools used in crucifixion.
Haji-Athanasiou pointed out that some of the renovations carried out in the Cathedral since 1840 weren’t very aptly made, as some of the original stones were placed in the wrong place, noting that locals of all walks of life volunteered to help cast the roof of the Cathedral in a show of fraternity and solidarity.
Regarding the Cathedral’s architecture, Haji-Athanasiou says its follows the Basilica style, with the courtyard separated by supports and archways into three naves, with a marble floor and two lines of wooden pews in the middle nave and a single line of pews in the other naves. Its roof is elevated and flat with rectangular hollow spaces and windows in the walls of the middle nave, while two corridors covered in arches are on either side.
The Cathedral’s pulpit is made of wood and raised on a support, and reached via spiral stairs with wooden railings decorated with 11 medium-sized antique icons.
The sanctum sanctorum is accessed by ascending three marble stairs, and a raised marble iconostasis extends across the width of the church, housing nine large door icons in the bottom part and 35 medium-sized icons in the upper part.
The Cathedral houses many valuable antique icons dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, some of them suspended around the church and others suspended in the sacristy.